Senior Paramedic Ernst Freier left the hangar of the ADAC rescue helicopter Christoph 18 in Ochsenfurt laughing and crying: “It's just my baby,” admits the 64-year-old from Würzburg, “and it hurts to let go”.
Freier has been on the rescue helicopter's crew since it was installed in Ochsenfurt in 1980. He is the longest-serving, active paramedic on a rescue helicopter in Germany – called TC HEMS (Technical Crew Member Helicopter Emergency Medical Services). Christoph 18 completed over 60,000 missions across its 40-plus years of service, with Freier flying on many thousands.
"For me, flying is like oxygen for others," Freier once said – and has symbolically handed over his radio receiver to his Maltese colleague Dennis Kolbe, who will now be TC HEMS. "The footsteps I am following are big," said Kolbe.
Although Freier’s official farewell ceremony could only host a very small group due to Covid restrictions, overshadowed by the expansive helicopter hanger of ADAC Air Rescue in Ochsenfurt, the respect for him was palpable. Frédéric Bruder, Managing Director of ADAC Air Rescue Service, said: "For more than 40 years, Ernst Freier has been representative of the excellent work and great commitment of the Christoph 18 crew. He lived his work as TC HEMS on our ADAC rescue helicopter like no other. We would like to thank him for this.”
Finding a home at ADAC rescue
“Ernst Freier’s commitment went far beyond the responsibilities of his tasks. I am thinking, for example, of the extensive renovation of the air rescue station in 2012, in which he was actively involved," said Christine Haupt-Kreutzer, Chairwoman of the Rescue Association. Rainer Kaufmann, Malteser District Manager, added: "Ernst Freier has found a home in Christoph 18. Home is associated with a lot of gratitude and security, but also with the certainty that at some point the day will come when you have to let go in order to keep your home in good memory.”
With around 2,000 missions per year, Christoph 18 is one of the most frequently alerted ADAC rescue helicopters in Germany. Only the stations in Berlin and Wittlich and Koblenz in Rhineland-Palatinate recorded a similar number of take-offs and landings. In a comparison of the eight Bavarian stations, Ochsenfurt is at the top – ahead of Straubing and Munich. With more than 50 rescue helicopters and 37 stations, the ADAC Air Rescue is one of the largest air rescue organizations in Europe. The ADAC rescue helicopters are part of the German rescue service system, are always requested from the control center via the emergency number 112 and are on hand in an emergency for anyone who has had an accident or is sick.